Totally Deep Metaphors and Shit
by Solomon Philbrick
Whenever I buy a new game, I always try to play it on the hardest difficulty level. I am of the opinion that video games are too expensive to play on “easy” level. If a normal game played on a lower difficulty takes about ten hours to complete, I figure it’s probably better to raise the difficulty and get at least two to four more hours out of the thing before I’m finished. Aside from that, I also think that finishing a game on “Totally Fucking Psychotic” mode gives the gamer certain nerdy bragging rights. “Yes, my friend, you may have beaten Zombie Death Revolution V, but on what level?”
Sometimes, though, this approach leads to a lot of unnecessary frustration. I have thrown my hands up in annoyance on numerous occasions, when getting from checkpoint A to checkpoint B becomes a tedious affair that lasts half a day. I am currently in this kind of stalemate with both Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas. In the former, I am close to the end of the game and this sort of thing should be expected, but in the latter, I am only on the second mission and I can’t even break into the stupid casino where the main action is supposed to take place. Aside from the fact that this shows just how unfit I am for the military or law enforcement (at least as a tactician,) it is also beginning to cramp my enjoyment of the games. This is especially true of Rainbow Six, in which even the first mission turned into a lousy, aggravating slog that I was more relieved to finally finish than anything else. After being killed by crouching unseen shotgun guy for the one-hundredth time I was about ready to throw the controller through the television, and even after figuring out how to kill crouching unseen shotgun guy there was a whole room full of crouching unseen machine gun guys just waiting to make my life as a virtual counter-terrorist operative miserable. After a while I begin to wonder if it would just be better to play as a rookie and enjoy the game.
In the non-gaming part of my existence (about ninety-five percent,) though, I am finding that the problem is the exact opposite. In class, I sit in a small room full of fledgling literary critics and professors, each with a particular axe to grind. The current source of my literary misery is Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, a one thousand page poem from the late sixteenth century which is basically a big fat smooch to Queen Elizabeth’s snowy white posterior. (English majors in the house, please back me up on how bloody dull this book is.) Anyway, my experience in this class is like being the newbie in some sort of hardcore tournament. While I am simply trying to get the plot of the thing down, the rest of the class is breaking down every sentence in order to duke it out over specific personal agendas. We have the guy who wants to prove that everything in the book somehow relates to the American colonies and syphilis (true story,) the woman who wants to find rape and sexual violence in everything, the woman who is obsessed with revenge since she is writing a dissertation on Hamlet, the guy who tries to use as many big words to say as little as possible, and the woman who simply disagrees with anything that anyone says. This final one sits next to me and whispers about how stupid everyone is in my ear, which is distracting in more than one way. Meanwhile, I sit in uncomfortable silence and watch my participation grade die because I can’t figure out what the hell everyone is going on about.
Part of the problem is that I play life in rookie mode, while those around me are in hardcore psychotic mode. It’s rather disorienting, mainly because I’m used to being the middle-achiever in a group of underachievers and now I’m the middle-achiever in a group of insane overachievers who have been playing this particular game for years. So I’m trying to learn how to play life on a harder difficulty level but without the comfort of knowing that the game will be the same the next time I pick it up. Hopefully, when I finally figure out how to get the boulder to the top of the hill it will not roll back to the bottom.